Magyar Millennium Park
The Magyar Millennium Park, situated on the corner of Molesworth and Hawkestone Streets in Wellington, is New Zealand’s only national Hungarian memorial. The park was created to promote Hungarian-New Zealand relations and understanding and to provide a permanent focal point perpetuating the presence of Hungarians living in New Zealand. It is an expression of Hungarians’ appreciation to their adoptive country and offers future generations of New Zealand Hungarians a legacy of their Hungarian heritage.
In a setting with trees and shrubs typically found in Hungary, the park has two characteristically Hungarian features: a decorative wooden gate (székely kapu) that was carved in Transylvania and gifted by the Hungarian Government, and a locally carved wooden plinth (kopjafa) symbolising freedom.
A testimony to New Zealand’s cultural diversity, the Magyar Millennium Park will add to Wellington’s tourist attractions and be a landmark for New Zealand-Hungarians and Hungarian visitors to the city, especially on Hungary’s 3 national days, 15 March, 20 August and 23 October.
Why 20 August?
The Magyar Millennium Project was started in late 1998 by the late Paul Szentirmay, Hungary’s first Consul-General to New Zealand. He initiated it as part of worldwide celebrations planned for the year 2000 to commemorate Hungary’s millennium as a Christian state.
King Stephen founded Hungary as a Christian state in 1000 AD, some 100 years after the pagan nomad Hungarian tribes settled in the Carpathian Basin under the leadership of Árpád. On 20 August 1083, 45 years after his death, King Stephen was canonised and St Stephen’s Day has since become Hungary’s oldest national day.
Paul Szentirmay envisaged the Magyar Millennium Project as a unique opportunity to focus the energies and aspirations of Hungarians all over New Zealand for a common cause. He brought together a core of people to begin to make it happen and it was this group who formulated the project’s objectives and who saw the project through to its end some five years later.
The biggest challenge proved to be finding a suitable site and it was this factor alone that prevented the project becoming a reality within the intended timeframe of the Magyar Millennium in 2000.
Features of the Magyar Millennium Park
The Freedom Kopjafa is the centrepiece in the memorial garden. The Kopjafa is an ornamental carved wooden “pole” – a symbol of freedom and all who have sacrificed their lives for freedom. Sponsored by the late Honorary Consul-General, Paul Szentirmay, it stands two metres high and is 20 cm wide. It was carved by Róbert Tóth in 1998-99 and unveiled in Wellington by visiting President Árpád Göncz, the then President of the Republic of Hungary, on 27 February 1999.
The Magyar Kapu (Székely Kapu) is the decoratively carved wooden gate and main entrance to the park. The design of the gate features the Hungarian coat of arms, the Transylvanian coat of arms and traditional motifs carved into the pillars, archway and gate. The gate, which was carved by Imre Kisgyörgy and his family in Székelyudvarhely, (Transylvania) is a gift from the Hungarian government.
The Magyar Gate or Székelykapu is a traditional cultural feature found in many parts of Hungary as entrances to public parks, reserves, cemeteries, cultural centres, and in Transylvania – where it originated from – predominantly as entrances to private properties. Traditionally, the carved columns are ornamented with flower motifs, allegorical, mythical figures and runic writing, similarly to the motifs found on the Kopjafa.
The garden is filled with shrubs and trees typically found in Hungary in a garden setting provide a sheltered and contemplative area.
The paved walkway leads through the Magyar Kapu to the Kopjafa and forms a large circular area with four benches around the perimeter. The walkway features pavers engraved with the names of New Zealand Hungarians and sponsors. Some 200 individuals and families have supported the establishment of this memorial park by having their names engraved on pavers.
The Magyar Millennium Park was officially opened by the Governor General of New Zealand, Her Excellency The Hon Dame Silvia Cartwright on 20 August 2003. Special guest world-renowned folksinger Márta Sebestyén sang at the opening, as well as at gala celebration in the evening.
Further information is available from the Consulate-General in Wellington.